Last week I learned from my mom that mrs Reyes passed away. She was 95 and one of the toughest people I've ever met. We were not blood related... She was, in fact, my moms first mother in law ( both my parents were married before marrying and eventually having me). In my lifetime I maybe got to meet her in person only a handful of times. And yet, She always, without fail, for as long as I can remember, called me her grandson and asked for me whenever she talked to my mom.
When I was in the 6th grade she sent me a black leather wallet with $5 in it. It was the first wallet I ever owned and, in all honesty, the same wallet I use today. She was, and is, a part of my family.
I only had one real true, blood related, grandma. Her name was Mary Louise Reyna ( Mamo) and I can't help but smile when I think about her. She was nice and sweet, she used to take me to school. She could play the piano by ear and bought me my first comic book.
My moms mom was everything I could've ever asked for in a grandmother.
She was the complete opposite of Miss Valdespino .
Miss Valdespino, my dad's mom, was never much of a grandma. My first real memory of her was my dad begging her to hug me. I was maybe 5 at the time. The last time I saw her was at a Safeway, I walked up and put my arms out for a hug, she walked by as if she didn't know me.., though I know she knew who I was. I was maybe 20 ( this day is also notable as the only time I heard my Auntie Barbara swear as, upon miss Valdespino not acknowledge me, said, " what a bitch!!" as she walked by).
I've heard time and again that You Can't Choose your family. And over the years, I've learned this isn't true.
I only ever had one grandmother ... And she was the best... But if I had to choose a second... It would've been mrs Reyes.
Family, as I've come to know and define it, is NOT who you are blood related to... Family is who is in your heart. They are the people you first think to contact when something great happens in your life, they are the people you call when you need help, they are the people who know they can count on you just as you know you can rely on them . Sometimes years or decades can go by, but that doesn't lessen the bonds of family you hold on to. The ones you create. You simply pick up where you left off.
As I type this, I'm in the house of my Aunty Marty in LA. And though we are not blood related she has been my Aunt since before I was born.
It's nice to see and visit with my family here in LA. Even if I'm here to say goodbye to one of them tomorrow.